Archive for the ‘Romney’ category

Isaac Newton vs. Paul Ryan…

October 11, 2012

…who you gonna trust?

Paul Ryan on credit, debt and the wealth of nations:

You can’t spend, tax, regulate and borrow your way to prosperity.

[Tweet by @PaulRyanVP (little ahead of yourself there fella, wouldn’t you say? –ed.) at 11:40 on Wed. 10 Oct.]

Or — perhaps you can.

Isaac Newton:

If interest be not yet low enough for the advantage of trade and designs of setting the poor on work…as divers understanding men think it is not…the only proper way to lower it is more paper credit till by trading and business we can get more money.” (Italics added. Any invidious shadow that might fall upon the aspirant to the Vice Presidency is wholly intended.)

[Newton to John Pollexfen, MP and member of the Board of Trade, 1700.¹]*

In fact, of course, modern capitalism, the rise to power and great wealth of first Britain, and then ourselves and an increasing proportion of humanity, turns on the creation of credit, the ability of nations and individuals to borrow today against tomorrow’s increase in capacity, invention, and comfort.  It is precisely by paying Tuesday for the (means of making) hamburgers today that the whole system works.  If Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney have their way, we will slow our growth as a nation and as individuals, families, circles of friends will  suffer the consequences in diminished lives and opportunities.  (That such loss would fall  more on the mass of us than on those who recline at ease in Mr. Romney’s tax bracket is, of course, something that Adam Smith understood very well too — but that discussion is for another post.)

And if you don’t believe me? Take it up with my man Izzy:

But be careful — he really was a tad smarter than young Paul.

¹quoted in G. Findlay Shirras and J. H. Craig, “Sir Isaac Newton and the Currency” The Economic Journal, Vol. 55, No. 218/219 (Jun.-Sep., 1945) pp. 230-231.

*I’d be failing my Galtian duty as a profit maximizer if I didn’t mention that I discuss Newton’s role in coming up with new conceptions of money in my book Newton and the Counterfeiter, available at Amazon and wherever books are sold (also as an audiobook, where my sales are, alas languishing).

Images:  Marinus van Reymerswale, The Money Changer and his Wife, 1541.

Sir Godfrey Kneller, Portrait of Isaac Newton, 1689.

I Believe The Word You’re Looking For Is “Boy.”

October 9, 2012

Soonergrunt and I saw this at about the same time*, but here’s that survivor of adversity Josh Romney commenting on the nature and character of the President of the United States (via TPM):

“I don’t know if you guys saw the debate last week,” Josh Romney said, as the crowd cheered and applauded. “I take a lot of pride in that, because — I don’t know if you noticed, but I was — me and my brothers were responsible for my dad doing so well…

“So as a father, he learned how to debate an obstinate child. We had a lot of fun, we had a lot of fun watching the debate.”

Seriously, once again, I find myself in the odd position of wanting to thank a member of the opposing team.  Really, Josh, I appreciate this insight, this glimpse inside the real views of Team Romney.

The President of the United States — the one who steered the country through the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the one who passed the most significant health care reform in two generations, the one who saved the auto industry (in which your own family once took pride, as I recall), the one who steered a very delicate course that ended with the fall of more than one dictator and the transformation of autocratic Arab regimes into something much closer to one their own people recognize as legitimate, the guy who got Bin Laden and all the rest — that great American is to you “an obstinate child.”

Really?

Oh — and I forgot to mention.  That president, our president, your president, like it or not, happens to be the first African-American to hold that office, which among many other things means he has to deal with a level of identity pressure unlike anything a born-rich, never-has-to-wonder-about-your-children’s-children’s-material-well-being guy like yourself.  And with all of that you’re going to call that man “an obstinate child.”  Just a brat arguing with Daddy-knows-best at the dinner table.  A servant, perhaps, a member of the lower orders, who should, by rights, know his place?

As I said, the word you are looking for is “boy.”  Really, you just said it.

IOW:  we approach asymptotically the point at which the entire GOP shouts as one: Ni-CLANG!

Oh. One more thing. Again, thanks Josh.  A significant portion of your dad’s polling boost has come from increased enthusiasm on your side, and a depressed drop on ours.  Stuff like this makes me and mine take notice, and it only does us good when you stir the pot this way.

Speaking out of snark for just one minute, despite all the evidence to date, Josh Romney’s remark reminds me once again that there is simply no bottom over there — no reservoir of shame nor self awareness that can puncture the single conviction that I can be sure the Romney clan possesses:  that theirs is the divine right to rule.  Such faith is, of course, singularly disqualifying its possessors from the reward they seek.

Let us make it so.

*Soonergrunt twittered on it first, but I got to Starbucks WiFi before he did, so there!

.Image: Jan Mitjans, Portrait of Maria of Orange with Hendrik van Zuijlestein and a servant,  c. 1665

Dear Mr. Romney…

October 5, 2012

I write to tell you how much I value your bold, principled stand on the scourge of minds and drain on the treasury that is…a puppet.  May I encourage you, please, to stand fast on this; it is long past time that brave voices like yours made sure such travesties receive no support from right thinking Americans and their leaders….

…which is to say, dear Balloon-Juicers, that I deeply enjoyed this morning’s pundit roundup at the Great Orange Satan, in which was documented what seems to have been the only truly memorable moment from Wednesday’s debate. The shorter: in a venue in which the forces of darkness planned to unveil the RomneyBot v. 4.0, now with empathy module implemented, the programming turned out to be, well, not quite bug-free.

For all the alpha male stuff, and the energy level, and the spectacular and at least temporarily successful rewriting of the Romney plan and platform, what regular people and a fair subset of the punditocracy seem to recall was that awkward bit where the man who likes to fire people told everyone he was going to kill off a large, cuddly, yellow bird.

Hence, stuff like this from Mary Elizabeth Wallace at Salon:

[D]espite coming out of the evening looking stronger than he has in weeks — Romney made the error of looking like a man who is not on the side of innocence, whimsy, learning or childhood. Nor did he seem to grasp that Big Bird is an integral part of a show that was created for and remains at its core about community and diversity, one that has for decades been an essential tool in helping low-income children prepare for school. Going after Big Bird is like putting down baseball and rainbows and YouTube videos of otter pups. You just don’t.

Also, these metrics caught my eye:

The phrase “Big Bird” was appearing 17,000 times every minute on Twitter. At midnight, CNN reported that mentions of Big Bird on Facebook were up an astronomical 800,000%.  Facebook later said Big Bird was the fourth most-mentioned topic on Facebook during the debate, getting more attention than topics like jobs, taxes, Jim Lehrer and Obamacare.

(Both quotes via the original DKos roundup, btw.)

I remain amazed at the Romney campaign’s ability to spin lead out of gold.  Really: he had a good debate, just about as good as it was possible to imagine, given his own strong performance and President Obama’s seemingly tired and distracted one.  Leave aside for a moment the medium-to-long game of taking apart all the BS that he spewed, which is already putting in play the issues of trust and character that will IMHO flow to the President’s benefit.  The debate itself was clearly the best 90 minutes the Romney folks have had for a very long time.

Yet and yet and yet…Big Bird!

The line had all the sound of a prepared zinger, which, if true, means that someone with access to RomneyBot source code actually thought it was a good idea to personalize their device’s budget seriousness by cutting the throat of a fictional character beloved by millions.  And if it wasn’t rehearsed, that’s in some ways worse.  It means Romney revealed just a bit of himself, that gay-bashing bully-mean guy character that Ann keeps assuring us doesn’t exist.  If offing Big Bird just burbled out of his head and mouth on the spot?  Not a pretty window into the notional soul of a man who would be president.

Either way, of course, I’m grateful. Way to douse the glow of your big night, big fella.

Oh…and one more thing.  Mitt? Yo! Mr. Romney?

Can I ask a favor.  Really, not a big one.  OK?

Here goes:

Would you, oh could you, please, please, pleeeeeeze…

…..persist in your blanket hornpipe with that oversize fictive fowl?

Image: Peter Jakon Horemans, Still Life with Plucked Chicken, Apples and Beets, 1768.

Thank You John Sununu

October 4, 2012

Just a quick follow up to Imani’s post.

Today John Sununu called the President “lazy” — and on being pressed, doubled down and said it again.

Just to be clear:  the word Sununu was looking for is “shiftless.”  And BTW, I disagree with Imani just this far:  Sununu wasn’t really blowing a dog whistle.  He just about stood on top of the bar and trumpeted the noun we all can hear lurking just behind the adjective.

Here we see again what’s been apparent for some time:  the Romney campaign has clearly set itself the goal of out-George Wallace-ing the entire GOP primary field as it looks for ways to remind the electorate that the 44th president of the United States is, you know, an African-American man.

For which I offer my sincere thanks to Mr. Sununu…

…best remembered as the toxic-moocher George H. W. Bush fired in an ultimately bootless attempt to avoid re-election crash-and-burn.

Why such gratitude?  Not just because every time something like this makes headlines the toxic foulness of your current GOP becomes yet more obvious (to the point where even such an MSM Village stalwart as Andrea Mitchell seemed to wince, as you can see in the video at the TPM link).

 

But also because once again Sununu himself and the Romney campaign — a hopelessly undisciplined, tactics-before-strategy, book-a-separate-seat-on-the-plane-for-each-ego kind of operation — have managed to step on their collective genitals, and the story of Romney prowess they hoped would dominate the day.

I don’t know what universe Sununu inhabits, but in the one in which you must  a very small number of folks who voted for Barack Obama last time but might not this time, it just isn’t that great an idea to race-bait in the hopes that no one but your targets will notice.  They will. We do.

Ta-Nehisi Coates linked above as well as here, is dead right on this one.  I don’t know or care if John Sununu is a racist in his daily interactions.  What matters is that he’s a race-hustler.  Hears TNC on that pathology:

We imagine the American past as filled with rabid bigots. But there have always been at least as many people who have some sense that bigotry is wrong, though they may say nothing.  And then there are a select few who are fairly clear on right and wrong, but simply see more upside in being wrong.

The difference now is that we actually have a black President.  And despite the delusions and deceit of the Sununus of the world, an awful lot of the electorate  seems to have its collective head screwed on pretty good.  They — we — get that the Obama Michael Lewis describes is a much better representation of the actual person than any fantasy put out in a haze of power lust by John Sununu or Mitt Romney.  And thus, despite that ever closer tiptoeing to the plain-text Ni-CLANG! moment Imani describes, Sununu’s hateful speech is the howler monkey’s last fling of faeces against the bars of his cage.  Satisfying to the simian involved, no doubt, but hardly a persuasive exercise.

Put simply:  for all the storm and chaos on the right, most Americans wish the President well — for very good reasons of self interest, if nothing else.  When you trumpet the crazy beyond the walls of the asylum, you make even those who might be receptive to calmer argument just a bit nervous.  Folks start to cross the street when they see you coming.  You get my drift?

One more thing:  Sununu, not content to insult every American who believes that the Presidency deserves minimal respect, added this gem  on Fox News.  Asked if Obama would do better next round, he replied “When you’re not that bright, you can’t get better prepared.”

Oh frabjous day.

John — can I call you John? — it’s less descriptive, but trips off the tongue more easily than “pustule” — please, oh please continue enjoying the carnal knowledge of that fine pullet.  I sincerely hope that your view reflects the Romney campaign’s perception of their opponent.

That is all.

Image Otto Marseus van Schreick, Blue Breeze, Toad and Insects, 1660.

Post Debate Punditing Without A License

October 4, 2012

I’m going to do something I very rarely wish to inflict on y’all.  Usually, I like to invoke at least a schmear of empirical evidence to drive an argument, but just this once I’m going to go all pundity…

….which means, I guess, that I gotta with a Penetrating Glimpse of the Obvious:

Last night’s debate was a poor showing for President Obama and those of us who see the prospect of a President Romney as a clear and present danger to the Republic and our kids’ future.

Which leads to the equally obvious (but true) pivot:

No campaign is a single event. Counting today there are 32 full days to go before the polls open on Tuesday, November 6.  Last night’s farrago will become part of the river of stories that flow towards that day — but it is the sum of those tales, not any single shiny moment, that will determine the outcome.

Already, some folks — partisans for now, to be sure — are trying to draw attention to what Romney actually said, and in doing so, identifying the significant vulnerabilities this debate exposed for the Republican cause.  For example, I agree with Mistermix that Romney’s signal mistake was to open himself up for a renewed assault on his Medicare position — and that link to Krugman shows it ain’t just us DFH’s paying attention.   I also think Romney’s tripling down on his tax plan will allow a lot of people, and not just wonks, to remind folks of the gap between arithmetic and all the BS Romney and Ryan have thrown out on this one.

As Josh Marshall says in that second link, this is the kind of thing that takes several news cycles to build.  But recall:  we were all enraged at the brazen embrace of easily refutable lies in the Ryan RNC Convention speech.  We didn’t have faith in either the MSM or the Obama campaign (Democrats after all!) to take on the deceit with anything like the attention needed to defuse such weaponized ruminant excrement.  But they did, and (with some help from the marathon man himself) Ryan has become at least a bit of punchline ever since.*

So:  President Obama missed many opportunities last night, perhaps most significantly in not drawing a sharp enough line between the “you’re on your own” Romney vision and the “we’re all in this together” music Obama has played to such great effect in the past (and I’m sure will again, soon).

But the real test of the Obama campaign will be what it does over the next week with the actual missteps Romney made last night.  How will they use his internal contradictions in the ads?  What will Obama and his surrogates say to local news folks?  How quickly can their operation drive the mainstream media to go to town on stories like this one? (Shorter: it took almost no time at all for a Romney aide to contradict Romney’s core claim about pre-existing conditions and Medicare.)  No guarantees exist, but I have to say I’ve been damn impressed with the side of the Obama campaign that pursues such ends.  (Note also that Fallows reminds us that (in his view) debating is the best campaign technique for Romney.  Obama’s operation has been superior to his rival’s in every other phase so far.)

To repeat the cliché — holy hell, if I’m pretending to be a pundit I’ve got to hammer those too — but campaigns are marathons, not sprints.  Romney’s performance last night was like ripping off an 15 second 100 yard dash in mile 18th on the way to the Back Bay.**  Yup, he won that stretch of road.  Now comes the time to reel him in.

Which leads me to my last thought, the one I hope y’all take home: 32 days, peeps. It’s not just Obama and the grandees of the profession, the Axelrod’s and the Plouffe’s who can’t let themselves get too much sleep between now and then.  There’s the rest of us.  There’s me.

I have to confess — I’ve been less involved in a boots-on-the-ground kind of way in this election than the last, and by a good margin too.  My wife and I have been giving money on a regular basis, but I used to be a phone bank hero, and then got into door-to-door as my preferred mode of participation.  Haven’t done that this year; pretty much all I’ve done that requires me to upgrade from a bathrobe in front of a screen in my basement*** is to show up at a couple of Warren events.  That’s not enough — if there is one true lesson to be gained from the debate it is that nothing is in the bag, not the Presidency, not the Senate, surely not the House.

I’m not Tim F.  I can’t match his gift for catalyzing action.  But action is needed, so here’s my pledge.  I’m going to do something every week from now through Monday, 5 November.  I’ve got the day job and I’ve got the kid and there’s some real life stuff happening in my extended family, so I can’t do what I did when I was a mere pup, and just take off for New Hampshire for the last two weeks of the 1992 election.  But I’ll be heading that way to canvas this weekend and everyday I can liberate from my daily round between now and the 6th; I’ll be tossing more bucks in the pot today, and no doubt on days to come; I’ll keep looking for useful tasks that I can tackle.  I really don’t want to do this — I’m becoming more misanthropic and generally grumpy with each passing year, but that’s what’s required, so I’m just going to kick my ass out the door as much as I possibly can.

You?

Update: Just to show it ain’t just my rose-colored monitor screens coloring my view, here’s a dispatch from the inner sanctum of the Village, NBC’s First Read:

*** Who wins the post-debate? If Romney won the instant reactions from last night’s debate, it is more than possible that the Obama camp can win the next 24 hours. Why? Because Romney said several things that could make life difficult for him today or in the next debate. First, Romney declared, “I will not reduce the taxes paid by high-income Americans.” But in addition to supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts, which are skewed heavily to the wealthy, the non-partisan Tax Policy Center says that Romney’s tax plan would give the Top 0.1% an average tax cut of more than $246,000. Next, he stated that “there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” While he has said his plan will be paid for, he’s yet to lay out any SPECIFICS on how he’ll pay for it. Romney also said, “I’m not going to cut education funding. I don’t have any plan to cut education funding.” But the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has said he’d sign into law, leads to long-term spending reductions in education. And Romney also didn’t disagree with the description that his Medicare plan would consist of “vouchers” for future retirees. Winning a “debate” is always a two-part deal — the night itself, and then the aftermath. This is now an opportunity for Team Obama and a challenge for Team Romney.

Update 2: And on cue, here’s an opening shot from Team Obama (via):

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None of this is to say all is well.

It isn’t.

This election is a month away and it really, truly ain’t in the bag yet.  So what I said above:  If the idea of waking up on November 7 to the words President-Elect Romney gives you the cold sweats, listen to the man — and don’t just vote, put mind, money and muscle behind the campaign to get your fri

*Via DeLong, a new game:  Where’s Waldo Paulie?

**Boston stuff — never mind.

***Not intended to be a factual statement.

Image:  Franz Marc, The Yellow Cow, 1911.

Reality, Meet Conor. Conor, Meet the Real World.

September 27, 2012

As Mistermix has already discussed, the young, and earnest Conor Friedersdorf  wrote this yesterday:

The whole liberal conceit that Obama is a good, enlightened man, while his opponent is a malign, hard-hearted cretin, depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued. Alternatively, the less savory parts of Obama’s tenure can just be repeatedly disappeared from the narrative of his first term, as so many left-leaning journalists, uncomfortable confronting the depths of the man’s transgressions, have done over and over again.

Keen on Obama’s civil-libertarian message and reassertion of basic American values, I supported him in 2008. Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama.

I and lots here agree, I think, that Obama’s record on civil liberties, the use of military power and so on is hardly perfect — not what many of his supporters hoped for in 2008.  I’d disagree with Conor on the weight I’d assign to different counts in his indictment, and it does seem to me important to recognize that presidenting is much harder than it looks (and it looks damn difficult).  Some of the choices Obama has made, as Michael Lewis makes clear at that link, have involved actions Friedersdorf deplores for reasons that nonetheless have a direct moral calculus of their own.  (See especially the discussion of whether and how to intervene in Libya before Qaddafi’s forces got to Benghazi.)

That said, and acknowledging that Friedersdorf has both reason and the right to feel moral revulsion at some of the acts of the Obama administration, in this fallen world you don’t get the choice of the perfect man or government.  Friedersdorf acknowledges the “lesser of two evils” argument with a faint sneer:

If you’re a utilitarian who plans to vote for Obama, better to mournfully acknowledge that you regard him as the lesser of two evils, with all that phrase denotes.

But moral relativism is not for the stalwart Friedersdorf:

Today I would feel ashamed to associate myself with his first term or the likely course of his second. I refuse to vote for Barack Obama. Have you any deal-breakers?

Ahh, the eternal righteousness of the resolutely disengaged.

Much of this is down to the dangerous folly of true single-issue voters.  Friedersdorf ridicules what he sees as the liberal caricture of Mitt Romney as “a malign, hard-hearted cretin,” which, he argues “depends on constructing a reality where the lives of non-Americans — along with the lives of some American Muslims and whistleblowers — just aren’t valued.”  In the reduction of Obama and Romney to the one issue of the exercise of state violence, Friedersdorf fails to value the old, the young, the sick, the uninsured and so on…but let that slide, as part of the necessary pathology of someone for whom the complications of living in the world are too much for the enduring sunshine of their spotless consciences.

But the problem for Friederdorf is more basic.  His argument rests on the claim that on the crucial matter Romney and Obama are the same.  Which is why this report in today’s New York Times is such a firecracker up his rhetorical butt:

In one of his first acts, President Obama issued an executive order restricting interrogators to a list of nonabusive tactics approved in the Army Field Manual. Even as he embraced a hawkish approach to other counterterrorism issues — like drone strikes, military commissions, indefinite detention and the Patriot Act — Mr. Obama has stuck to that strict no-torture policy.

By contrast, Mr. Romney’s advisers have privately urged him to “rescind and replace President Obama’s executive order” and permit secret “enhanced interrogation techniques against high-value detainees that are safe, legal and effective in generating intelligence to save American lives,” according to an internal Romney campaign memorandum.

While the memo is a policy proposal drafted by Mr. Romney’s advisers in September 2011 — not a final decision by him — its detailed analysis dovetails with his rare and limited public comments about interrogation.

“We’ll use enhanced interrogation techniques which go beyond those that are in the military handbook right now,” he said at a news conference in Charleston, S.C., in December. [mp3 at the link]

The shorter:  there are still lives and deaths in the balance even in the face of imperfect alternatives. Symbolic gestures can kill just as surely as sword (ask a Ralph Nader voter).

One last thought.  Memory that extends past the last election can help grasp the catastrophes that can attend principled disengagement.  The historian Peter Gay has written of the “rational republicans” who so honorably undercut the German revolution and the Weimar Republic that emerged from it:

The Vernunftrepublikaner [rational republicans] were reasonable men who had been willing to learn the first lesson of modernity but not the second:  they acknowledged that nostalgia for the Empire was ridiculous, bu they could not see that the Republci might deserve wholehearted support–or, rather, that it might become deserving if enough deserving persons supported it.¹ [italics added]

So it is with Friedersdorf, and with all those who pine for the second coming of whoever.  No doubt we need to keep pressure on both the president and congress to walk back the assault on life and liberty that has taken place in American politics after 9/11.* But to assume that a holy vote for Gary Johnson is somehow going to advance either that cause or make a material difference in the life of a US prisoner under the tender mercies of a Romney administration…that’s worse than foolishness.  It is a cowardly abdication of a basic human responsibility:  the necessity that we make choices where no alternative is without cost.

Or, shorter: Friedersdorf = Wanker!

*And before, of course — but what Conor’s complaining about has a pretty straight line of descent from that moment.

¹Peter Gay, Weimar Culture, Harper Torchbook edition, 1970, p. 25

Image:  Nicolaes Maes, Christ before Pilate, mid 17th century.

Samuel L. Jackson Calmly Discusses The Issue Of Democratic Voter Lassitude

September 27, 2012

One more celebrity weighing in on the imperatives of this election: (Bleeped, but not entirely SFW)

(Non-bleeped, unequivocally NSFW original here.)

In other news — I just this moment received an email from one Barack Obama, asking me to send money…to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.  I know this is pretty close to routine, but still, I take it as a good sign for both the presidential race and what’s happening down ticket that he’s extending the use of his network to support the rest of the party.  It isn’t a big thing, of course, but still a positive.

And yeah, I know this is another drive-by post, but work is still brutal.  TL;DR posting to resume…but when? I dunno.